I just got off the phone with former GOP congressman Rob Simmons, who has declared his candidacy to challenge Chris Dodd. I asked him about the Washington Times story about AIG Financial Services chief executive Joseph Cassano’s 2006 fundraising push for Dodd, asking employees and their spouses to donate the legal maximum, $2,300, and to let Cassano know when they donated. The effort raised $162,000 in six weeks for the Connecticut senator.
“This is a classic case of the conflict of interest that exists when a powerful chairman of an oversight committee puts himself in a position to shake down the people he oversees — and it is a shakedown,” Simmons said. “It’s inappropriate, and it violates the public trust. I believe public office is a public trust — that’s what I learned in the army, and what I’ve followed throughout my career, when I worked for Senator [John] Chafee of Rhode Island and Senator [Barry] Goldwater. You have to hold yourself to a higher standard.”
Simmons also had a brief thought on Dodd hiring Jay Howser, former campaign manager, to head up his 2010 reelection bid. Howser most recently managed Mary L. Landrieu’s reelection bid.
“I see he’s hired a campaign manager from Louisiana to come to Connecticut,” Simmons said, chuckling. “To me, that suggests he’s hurting.”
Simmons is in Washington today and tomorrow, holding a fundraiser and interviewing staff for his campaign.